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GOP lawmakers press Trump for answers on Russia bounty reports

Including-a closed-door meeting in Helsinki in 2018, President Donald Trump has now met with Russian President Vladimir Putin five times. However, there's no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump's face-to-face interactions.

CHRIS RATCLIFFE/BLOOMBERG

By ROS KRASNY AND BEN BRODY | Bloomberg | Published: June 28, 2020

Republican lawmakers demanded answers from the White House about reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin had put bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and that the U.S. had taken no action in response.

In his first comment on the matter, President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday that “nobody briefed or told me” about the “so-called attacks,” a comment that his former national security adviser termed “remarkable.”

The New York Times reported on Friday of the reputed actions by Russian military intelligence — paying Taliban-linked militias to kill American and British troops — and that Trump and other top White House officials had been briefed on the matter months ago. Major elements also were reported by The Washington Post.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House, on Sunday appeared to accept Trump’s comment as true. In a tweet, she called for an explanation of “who did know and when,” and asked whether the topic had been raised in the PDB, or the president’s daily brief. Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas retweeted Cheney, adding, “we need answers.”

A key Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Saturday it was “imperative Congress get to the bottom of” the allegations about Russia.

“I expect the Trump administration to take such allegations seriously and inform Congress immediately as to the reliability of these news reports,” Graham said on Twitter. He golfed with Trump on Sunday in Virginia.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she wasn’t aware of the intelligence about the Russian bounty on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but “we have called for a report to the Congress on this.”

“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score, denies being briefed. Whether he is or not, his administration knows,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., questioned Trump’s continued friendly relationship with Putin, including his call for the Russian leader to be present at the next G-7 meeting, “all while his administration reportedly knew Russia was trying to kill U.S troops in Afghanistan.”

Bolton, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said it was “pretty remarkable the president’s going out of his way to say he hasn’t heard anything about it, one asks, why would he do something like that?”

“He can disown everything if no one ever told him about it,” Bolton said. “It looks like just another day in the office at the Trump White House.”

Bolton said he didn’t know the quality of the intelligence on the Russian bounty plan, nor the extent of it. And not all information that flows through the many U.S. intelligence agencies is passed on to the commander in chief, Bolton noted.

“There needs to be a filter of intelligence for any president, especially for this president,” he said.

Asked why Trump is often defensive of Putin, Bolton said he didn’t read anything into it, necessarily. “I just don’t know what to say other than if he likes dealing with strong authoritarian figures.”

Bolton is in the middle of a media blitz to promote his tell-all book depicting the president as consistently prioritizing his own re-election, even above national security. On NBC he repeated a contention that while he won’t vote for Trump in November, he won’t vote for Biden, either.

Bolton paints Trump in the book as ignorant, easily manipulated by foreign leaders and unfit for office. Trump has fired back, calling the book “lies” and tweeting that Bolton is “wacko” and a “disgruntled boring fool.”

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